Inside the NCAA and FBI’s Smearing of Duke Basketball Phenom Zion Williamson

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Zion Williamson is a goddamn hero. Even though he’s going to Duke this season, truly tragic, the basketball world devours this big ol’ guy’s dunks, windmills, passes, whatever. Please, watch this highlight video of the man making his high school peers look like fetuses.

Dominant. Skilled. Extremely angry at the rim. This dude is NBA catnip. He is also worth a ton of money. Take, for instance, the purveyors of this highlight tape, Ballislife. They show ads during this video of Zion and get revenue so they can make a living traveling to obscure high school gyms around the country. His college sells tickets to his games and solicits donations based on his play. A shoe company supplies them with kicks and gets their image flashed across TVs all over America, chilling on his feet. His coach, Mike Krzyzewski, will make $ 8.9 million this year, utilizing Zion’s skillset without paying him a red cent of that salary. He will do this with pride, actually, regarding himself as a moral person who follows the rules because he makes money off of Zion’s work without giving him any of it.

This Monday, Zion’s name came up in the Justice Department’s ongoing prosecution of former Adidas executive James Gatto, AAU maven Christian Dawkins, and former Clemson standout Merl Code Jr. for wire fraud related to NCAA recruiting violations, which is consuming the edges of college basketball pre-season attention. “There was a wiretapped phone call that was recorded between one of the Adidas executives and a Kansas assistant coach.” Ricky O’Donnell, a college basketball writer at SB Nation, tells me. “The executive told the Kansas coach that Zion’s father asked the company for housing, some money for Zion’s services as a basketball player, and a job for himself, and apparently the coach said, ‘Yeah sure, whatever.’”

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